If bringing a refugee family to town was as easy as inviting someone for dinner, we would not need Edmonton’s Sarah Brandvold.
But, as a trio of Three Hills churches are finding out, bringing refugee families into the unknowns of a western Canadian culture is neither quick nor simple.
Brandvold, representing Refugee Awareness Alberta with funding support from Alberta Labour, ensures her participants receive adequate information on the pre-migration experiences of refugees.
“I offer practical tools,” she said, “so the Three Hills sponsoring churches can understand and help their refugee families.
“I provide tips for understanding the refugee process and to help sponsors create welcoming and inclusive environments.”
Representatives from Kneehill Adult Learning and the Three Hills sponsoring churches met with Brandvold in Victory Church on Thurs. Sept. 20, for her three-hour workshop.
In what proved to be sensitivity training, participants learned that violence, political instability and poverty have created a global refugee crisis of nearly 65 million displaced persons, with Canada’s refugee intake last year being less than 100,000.
That may not appear like much, given that the Syria conflict alone has created over four million refugees.
Canada is one of 35 nations in the business of granting permanent residency to refugees.
Andy Woodland, a registered Canadian immigration consultant, said he has worked with the three churches to facilitate their sponsorships.
“The needs are so great,” he said, “It would be good for more Alberta churches or groups to get involved in the sponsorship program. It is a long process, but certainly something any group can participate in.”